It can be extremely distressing for parents to see their baby sick or uncomfortable—especially when there isn't an obvious reason why their child feels so crummy. Unfortunately, Hilary Duff knows exactly how that feels.
On New Year’s Day, Duff posted a photo on Instagram, sharing that her two-month-old daughter Banks is dealing with colic and asking fellow parents for their advice.
“Calling all parents of colic babies…..this ends right?” she captioned her photo. “Can you ever set them down without them screaming OR waking up? We have read everything the internet has to offer… nothing besides nursing basically every hour or less helps! We have done all the obvious things ..please leave magic tricks in comments.”
Commenters replied with suggestions like swaddling, using soothing noises, and changes in diet. But is there anything that can really help?
Colic is a condition characterized by prolonged crying and fussiness in a healthy infant that often occurs without any apparent cause.
Of course, fussiness and crying are pretty normal behaviors for infants. But excessive or prolonged crying—for three or more hours a day, three or more days a week, for three or more weeks—qualifies as colic, according to the Mayo Clinic.
There aren’t too many specific tell-tale symptoms of colic beyond crying and fussing—and any baby can exhibit these symptoms to some degree, E. Niki Kyvelos, M.D., a pediatrician at New York-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine, tells SELF. But the crying associated with colic usually comes on suddenly and tends to happen in the evening.
Other symptoms may include facial discoloration, such as redness in the face, as well as bodily tension. In fact, the crying "may be associated with arching of the back, drawing up of the legs and stiffening,” Dr. Kyvelos says.
Colic is generally thought to be caused by a combination of several factors, such as a gastrointestinal disturbance and a still-developing digestive tract, but the exact cause isn't well understood, Dr. Kyvelos says. Food allergies, overfeeding, infrequent burping, or an imbalance of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract may all make colic more likely, the Mayo Clinic says, possibly because they might cause some uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues for the baby.
Colic usually starts when a baby is a month old and can last until they’re about three or four months old, Daniel S. Ganjian, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF.
It's also pretty common: According to a 2015 report published in American Family Physician, colic affects between 10 and 40 percent of infants, and Dr. Ganjian estimates that up to 60 percent of his patients have experienced it.
Unfortunately, there aren't any magic cures for colic, but there are ways to make your baby more comfortable.
Unfortunately for Duff and any parents whose babies have colic, there usually isn't an easy fix. However, Dr. Kyvelos says certain soothing techniques may help, such as swaddling, carrying the baby in a front carrier, using a swing, and putting the baby near a source of background noise.
“A car or stroller ride or warm bath may also help,” she adds. “It can also be helpful to review feeding technique to ensure the baby is not swallowing an excessive amount of air and is not being overfed.”
If your child is crying for a long time and you can't figure out why, or the crying is concerning to you at all, then it's time to check in with their pediatrician.
“You won’t be able to relax if it seems like something is wrong, and hearing that reassurance goes a long way in making you feel more relaxed, and doctors can give you more insight into what’s going on," Dr. Ganjian says.
Although colic doesn’t cause serious medical problems for an infant, Dr. Kyvelos says, there are some things to keep an eye out for in a colicky baby. A fever, vomiting, or blood in the stool may be signs of something more serious, such as an infection. If any of those pop up, it's important to speak to a doctor.
However, it's also crucial to be aware of your own needs while taking care of any baby, especially one that's dealing with colic. So, Dr. Ganjian says, make sure that you are getting some sleep, eating enough, and generally taking care of yourself, since family stress or anxiety is another possible risk factor for colic in babies, per the Mayo Clinic.
It might also help to take turns taking care of your baby, or get help from someone you trust to take on some babysitting duties if that's an option for you. “If possible, caregivers should take turns and know that it’s okay to put your baby down for a few minutes to take a break,” Dr. Kyvelos says. “It’s very important for parents to realize that caring for a colicky baby is exhausting and stressful. If a parent feels like they are having a hard time or need more support, they should reach out to family and friends or their doctor or nurse.”
Dr. Ganjian also says it's important to remember that colic likely won’t go away in a day or two—so it's important to try and be patient. “It can take a month or two [to go away," he says. "If you’re really worried, see your pediatrician, and see them often if need be. Pediatricians love to see babies and their parents, there’s never a question that is too [insignificant] for us.”